What housing options are open to me after leaving the armed forces?
Leaving the armed forces
Deciding where to move to after leaving the forces can be an incredibly daunting process, particularly if you have served for a long time or if you haven’t lived independently for some time, or at all. When serving in the forces they provide all the support you need in order to move around regularly. On this page you can find advice about the things to first think about when finding your new home.
Advice on renting a house
Renting can be a really useful avenue if you want to get to know an area or aren’t in a position to buy your own home yet. If you decide to rent a property then there are a number of financial and practical considerations you will need to consider.
Help with finding housing
When you confirm you’re leaving the armed forces, you will have up to 12 months to find a new place to live.
The first thing you will want to think about is where you are going to live. You may have had to relocate to an area where you don’t know many people in which case you might decide to move back to where your friends and family are based.
You will need to think about finding work and might decide to live in or close to a large city where you are more likely to find a job. As a general rule you will find that prices are cheaper in parts of Northern England whereas London and the South East are more expensive.
You might also want to think about what schools and facilities are nearby.
If you decide you want to try living in a new area it is a good idea to spend time there and have a wander around to work out what the advantages and disadvantages might be of living there.
House and rental prices can vary dramatically on what part of the country you live in. You can get an idea of how much house prices are likely to be in your area here and how much you are likely to pay for rent.
Routes for finding housing
You will probably find your new home through one of these routes:
- Applying for social housing;
- Renting from a private landlord;
- Purchasing your own property.
For further advice on civilian housing options you can contact the Joint Service Housing Advice Office.
Spaces provides an accommodation placement service for single personnel being discharged.
Haig Housing Trust is the largest UK charity providing housing to veterans. It has helped provide over 1500 properties for ex-service personnel across the UK and covers 50 local authorities.
Social housing is provided by housing associations or a local council. It is intended to be more affordable than private renting and usually provides a more secure, long-term tenancy.
There is high demand for social housing and so you may be placed on a waiting list. You will be prioritised if you suffer with a serious disability or medical condition or if you are at danger of becoming homeless.
Shelter can provide advice and support on applying for social housing.
Renting a property
Renting a property has the benefit of giving you flexibility and is a good option if you want to live in a city where it may not be affordable to buy your own property. It is also a good idea to rent if you are looking for a short term option and haven’t decided where you want to live in the longer term. Renting can also be convenient as you don’t need to worry about maintenance or repair costs for the property. There are however a number of financial and practical considerations that you need to be aware of.
There are a number of financial considerations to consider when it comes to renting a private property.
You will need to pay a deposit and letting agency fees up front, before you move in, as well as the first month’s rent – this means you will need a lump sum of money if you choose to go down this route.
Your rental payment may cover some of your utility bills, you should check what is and isn’t included in the monthly rent, including things such as:
- Gas, electricity and water
- Council tax
- Broadband fees
- Contents insurance
The Money Advice Service provides helpful guidance on managing your bills.
You can find out more information about setting up utilities through Citizens Advice.
- Deposit cap: The deposit you have to pay should not be more than 5 weeks’ rent (where annual rent is less than £50,000) or 6 weeks’ rent (where annual rent is more than £50,000).
- Deposit protection: If your landlord asks for a deposit, check that it will be protected in a government approved scheme. Your deposit should be returned to you when the tenancy ends.
- Your rights: As a tenant you have the right to live in a property that’s safe and in a good state of repair. You may be able to take legal action if your landlord fails to deal with repairs. A new law was introduced in March 2019 to make sure that rented flats are ‘fit for human habitation’, which means that they are safe, healthy and free from things that can cause serious harm. You can find more information about the law here.
- Length of tenancy: A rental agreement is usually for a fixed length of 6 or 12 months. Even if the tenancy is not for a fixed period your landlord must allow you to stay in the property for a minimum of 6 months.
- Checking your tenancy agreement: It is important that you read any tenancy agreement carefully before signing.
You can find more information about renting a property and a landlord’s obligations on the government’s website.
What to do if you're at risk of being homeless?
If you are leaving the forces and are concerned about where you are going to live then you should contact the Joint Service Housing Advice Office.
You may be dealing with a number of issues that can make it more difficult to find housing for example if you are unable to work and have concerns about affording rent, or if you are struggling with a mental health issue or the breakdown of a relationship.
If, for whatever reason, you have been unable to get advice while you are serving and have not been able to find somewhere to live then you should contact your local council to find out what your housing options are.
In England, your council must help if you’re legally homeless or will become homeless within the next 8 weeks.
You may be legally homeless if:
- You’ve no legal right to live in accommodation anywhere in the world;
- You cannot get into your home, for example if your landlord has locked you out;
- It’s not reasonable to stay in your home, for example if you’re at risk of violence or abuse;
- You’re forced to live apart from your family or people you normally live with because there’s no suitable accommodation for you;
- You’re living in very poor conditions such as overcrowding.
You can find more information on the government’s website including advice for those living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
There are different types of support your council could offer you. They may offer you advice, emergency housing, support to find longer-term housing or help so you can stay in your home.
A local authority must consider whether anyone applying for housing who was a member of the armed forces is vulnerable as a result of their military service and therefore they should be considered a priority need when it comes to allocating housing.
You can find further advice and support from Shelter.
Charities that can help
Stoll is a veteran’s charity and housing association that provides housing and access to services that are aimed at preventing homelessness.
Veterans Lifeline is a charity offering direct practical help to veterans who have fallen on hard times and need help with issues as housing and finding work.